ANDREW GALE has told how the pain of being prevented from lifting the County Championship trophy last year is spurring him on as he prepares finally to hold the silverware aloft.
The Yorkshire captain was banned from lifting the cup at Trent Bridge last summer by the England and Wales Cricket Board as he was serving a ban following a verbal spat with Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince.
But Gale will exorcise the demons of 12 months ago if Yorkshire avoid defeat in their next match against second-placed Middlesex at Lord’s, starting on Wednesday, which would guarantee the title.
Yorkshire could even win the title if they lose at Lord’s, depending on the outcome of Middlesex’s ongoing game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, after Gale’s side thrashed Somerset yesterday by an innings and 126 runs at Headingley.
“Ever since we came back in pre-season, the motivation for me to lift that trophy after what happened last summer has been a big driver for me,” said Gale, whose side have two more Championship matches after Lord’s when they travel to Hampshire and host Sussex.
“To hopefully win back-to-back Championships would be a special feeling, but to actually get to lift the trophy this time would be even more special for me personally.
“It’s spurred me on, without a doubt, and, if you noticed, I kept my mouth shut throughout the Somerset game and let the other lads do the talking.”
Yorkshire’s win yesterday was their seventh in eight Championship games and temporarily took them 52 points clear.
However, Gale said the players did not even discuss the title afterwards.
“We didn’t speak about it in the dressing room after the game,” he said. “I think everyone is aware what the situation is, and it’s all about hammering the processes now and trying to do well each and every day.
“The cricket that we’re playing, we’d back ourselves to beat anyone, and we want to go down to Lord’s and win.
“Yes, it’s about trying to win the Championship, but it’s also about trying to set new records.”
Yorkshire, who would establish a new record for the most wins in two-divisional cricket (11) if they win two of their last three games, and who would set a new points record (267) with a further 26 points, annihilated Somerset inside seven sessions.
The visitors resumed on 44-2 on day three but were blown away for 155 just before lunch, Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson each finishing with three wickets and Jack Brooks and Tim Bresnan two apiece, with most of the visiting side falling to catches behind the wicket.
“I thought our bowling throughout the match was up there with the best bowling performances I’ve seen,” said Gale, whose side took the last four wickets in 19 balls.
“I always knew that if we got the overnight batsmen, James Hildreth and Tom Cooper, out quickly that Somerset might lose a little bit of fight, and that’s exactly what happened.
“Now the aim is to finish the job of winning the Championship, and although it would have been nice to have won it this week in front of our own fans, to go down to Lord’s, the home of cricket, and win the trophy there would be fantastic.
“I know a lot of Yorkshire fans will be travelling down, and, hopefully, we can put on a show.”
Yorkshire lost at Lord’s last summer in their only defeat of the Championship season.
“I don’t think it will be extra motivation,” said Gale.
“You shouldn’t need motivation going into the last three games of the season, playing for a trophy, and there will be no reminiscing about what happened there last year.”
Yorkshire’s win over Somerset was a genuine team effort, but Gale had special praise for Jack Brooks and Jonny Bairstow.
After being dropped for the previous match against Sussex, Brooks took 5-35 in the first innings – his best figures in first-class cricket for Yorkshire – and Bairstow reached 1,000 Championship runs for the season in just 13 innings with a stylish 91.
“I think Jack had a point to prove because no one wants to be left out and it probably dented his ego a little bit,” said Gale.
“But, as I said to him at Hove, we had five names for four places and we could pretty much have drawn them out of a hat, and he came back in and bowled superbly.
“As for Jonny, I was disappointed for him that he was not in England’s one-day squad, particularly after finishing well in the Ashes and what he did in the one-dayers against New Zealand, and it’s a big bonus now to have him around.
“If you’ve got someone who can get 1,000 runs in 13 knocks, you welcome him back with open arms.”